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University of Bath

The problem-solving peer support programme (ProSperS)

This programme aims to improve mood and problem-solving capabilities in students.

Transitioning to university can be a significant challenge for many students. Leaving home, moving somewhere new, and meeting new people can all be potentially stressful. Indeed, a recent survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that university students report high levels of stress, feelings of being unhappy/down, and having a lack of energy.

The problem-solving peer support programme aims to decrease stress and improve mood and well-being. The programme involves regular problem-solving peer support groups aiming to improve wellbeing for students during their first year at university. Peer support can be an effective way to improve self-esteem and confidence in students, with the problem-solving focus aiming to improve day-to-day problem-solving capabilities.

The programme is open to all students starting university in 2019 at universities in the South West of England. Whilst open to all, the project also aims to include autistic students. For autistic students, the transition to university can be particularly challenging, with a disproportionately high number dropping out in their first year. Autistic students can have limited social support during the first year, resulting in higher vulnerability, stress, and anxiety. Peer support can be effective in addressing this (as used by autism support services for adults).

Partners

This is a collaborative project between the Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR) at the University of Bath and the affiliated Japan Centre for Applied Autism Research (JCAAR) at Taisho University, Tokyo.

Programme overview

UK research

The UK project will begin in late summer 2019.

We are aiming to recruit 60 new students (40 non-autistic students and 20 autistic students) due to start university in September/October 2019. Before term begins/at the beginning of term participants will complete an online survey measuring e.g., anxiety and mood, stress, and well-being. Some students will then attend regular problem-solving peer support groups throughout the first semester, supporting each other in practical problem-solving.

At the end of the first semester students will again complete surveys, with measures from before and after the problem-solving groups compared to evaluate whether well-being is improved. Finally, students will complete survey measures at end of their first academic year to assess long-term benefits.

Japan research

The research in Japan will start at the beginning of their academic year in March/April 2020.

Students starting at Taisho University, Tokyo will be recruited, receiving a Japanese-language version of the UK intervention and measures.

Project team

Principal Investigator

Dr Chris Ashwin, Centre for Applied Autism Research

Co-Investigator

Professor Mark Brosnan, Centre for Applied Autism Research

Collaborator

Professor Tokio Uchiyama, Japan Centre for Applied Autism Research (JCAAR), Taisho University

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Dr Jade Norris, Centre for Applied Autism Research

Research Assistant

Post holders to be confirmed.

Advisors

  • Dr Richard Mills, Centre for Applied Autism Research
  • Matthew Trerise, Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS), Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Funding

This project is funded by the John and Lorna Wing Foundation.